At the end of July, as part of the Elgin O’Hare Western Access Project in Greater Chicago — a $3.4 billion, multi-year Illinois Tollway initiative, F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielson substantially completed a new flyover ramp bridge that connects westbound I-290 to westbound Illinois Route 390.
This $36 million bridge, one of three contracts that were awared to the firm for work on the overall project, had crews begin their work in March 2014, which included ramps and pavements. The 2,100-ft. (640 m) long bridge was built over the existing Interstate 290 (westbound and eastbound) and future road work for Illinois Route 390, formerly known as the Elgin O’Hare Expressway. The project is part of ongoing work to build a new I-290 Interchange at Illinois Route 390.
The flyover ramp bridge was built in three segments and includes eight concrete piers with 6 to 8-ft. (1.8 to 2.4 m) diameter columns and 54 steel girders to support the new ramps. The bridge’s deck is 49 ft. (14.9 m) wide (two lanes and wide shoulders on each side) and is 34 ft. (10.3 m) above grade at its highest point.
The I-290 Interchange is being reconstructed to provide direct access to and from Illinois Route 390 in all directions and relieve congestion along Illinois Route 390, as well as Rohlwing Road, Thorndale Avenue, Park Boulevard and Prospect Avenue.
The new interchange is expected to reduce travel times by up to 35 percent according to the Illinois Tollway. About 83,000 vehicles per-day currently use ramps at the I-290 Interchange, with up to 127,000 vehicles per-day expected to use the new interchange ramps when it opens in 2017—an increase of more than 53 percent. Close to 240,000 vehicles a day travel through the IR 390/I-290 area on a daily basis and that number is expected to increase to 340,000 by 2030.
Paul Kovacs, the Illinois Tollway’s chief engineer, addressed some of the design and lifespan issues of the new infrastructure.
“We design our roads and bridges to last at least 30 years, which is the typical design standard in our business,” he said. “We use advanced materials and features wherever we can, which in this project includes using high-performance concrete to help extend the lifespan of our roadways and building, and some bridges with integral abutments to reduce the number of expansion joints needed. We want to build for the long-haul so the customers who pay for our roads won’t face construction delays for years to come.”
Tim Bea, P.E., F.H. Paschen’s senior project manager describes the scope of the construction.
“It was all nightly work with the erecting of the steel girders and putting up the safety and protective shielding,” he said. “All the deckwork and framing of the bridge deck — 90 percent of it — took place during normal working hours. We self-perform all of the concrete work. We had Area Equipment set all the girders that were 84 in. and up to 120 ft. (36.5 m) in length — it was a pretty massive superstructure.”
Other subcontractors included: Lake County Grading for pavement removals and earthwork; K-Five Construction for asphalt; Martinez Underground for storm sewer installation; Hecker & Company for roadway lighting; and Area Equipment for steel erection.
The day shifts lasted 12 hours.
“To deliver our contract on schedule we ended up accelerating our work quite a bit this year,” said Bea. “We were working on ramps and there were a couple of retaining wall structures to build, so there were days and multiple weeks in a row where we had 50-plus of our own guys and 10 to 20 subcontractor personnel on the job. Winter work was very minimal and we really got kicking in early March this year on this job.”
Pre-planning was crucial for the success of this project, especially for the steel girder erection.
“These girders also had some curved girders, so it wasn’t just a straight bridge and that complicated things quite a bit,” said Bea, who has been with the company for 10 years. “We had a bridge construction procedure that was developed and stamped by a structural engineer. All of the picks for the beams were critical and multiple cranes were involved. A lot of planning also went into developing a plan on how we were going to safely frame and pour the bridge deck.
“The substructure had some pretty massive footings and columns,” he said, “but there is only so much planning that you can do at bid time when you are estimating a job. You do the best you can and then you dial it in before you start to build it. Getting input and advice from guys with much more experience than me was important. I had previously not built a bridge of this magnitude — I had worked on fairly simple two- or three-span bridges. This one was a whole different animal.”
Bea said that the biggest challenge was the structural steel installation.
“This is a really long structure and we had some issues with some things not fitting up out in the field,” he said. “Some of the girders were not hitting the piers where they needed to be hitting them, which was the main reason why we were forced into an acceleration mode this year to get the project done on time.”
The delivery of materials to the tight work site was another challenge.
“We had to think pretty creatively and plan quite a bit in advance to get the materials to us,” said Bea. “The fabricator for the beams was Industrial Steel. They are in northwest Indiana and it was a 75- to 90-minute drive to get a girder to where we were and there were limited time frames when you can travel on the roads with a girder of that size. Concrete deliveries were easier”
Concrete was supplied by Ozinga Ready Mix.
When the job was completed, the crews used 7,000 cu. yds. (5,351 cu m) of concrete, nearly 3,200 tons (2,902 cu m) of structural steel, and approximately 762 tons (691 t) of rebar.
Communications with the Illinois Tollway were essential. And because the existing road still belongs to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the contractor had to deal with both agencies.
“This required more coordination, especially for traffic issues and whenever you needed lane closures,” said Bea.
On this project, F.H. Paschen used primarily rented equipment, along with some of its own. The firm, which has offices in several states, purchases equipment and vehicles from local dealerships. When needed, equipment for the project was primarily rented from O’Learys Contractors Equipment and Supply Inc. in Chicago and West Side Tractor Sales in Chicago.
The equipment included skid steers, multiple excavators, multiple dozers, packers, and haul trucks and wheel loaders. Rough terrain cranes and crawler cranes were primarily rented from Central Crane in Chicago to help with bringing materials for the bridge work — substructures, piers and decks. F.H. Paschen also used cranes to set precast noisewall panels. The steel erector, rented its cranes from Stevenson Crane Service in Bolingbrook, Ill. The equipment included many CAT, John Deere, and Hitachi models.
F.H. Paschen mechanics were brought in to service its vehicles and for the rented equipment, the dealers sent their personnel.
“This made our job easier, especially for the steel erector, when the supplier maintains the equipment” says Bea. “They were using 300-plus ton cranes that not many people own – we definitely do not own cranes of that size. Our project engineers keep track of all the equipment that we have on-site. At times we substituted rented equipment with pieces from our fleet.”
The equipment and vehicles performed well, save for normal daily wear and tear issues – hose punctures, tire replacements, and oil and grease changes. Scheduled routine maintenance ensured that everything was in tip-top shape. F. H. Paschen had a fuel truck visit the site every day or two to ensure that gas tanks never ran dry.
The equipment operators filled out a daily checklist for their machines – rented or owned.
“It’s on paper and once the piece arrives on-site - the checklist logbook is placed inside the cab” says Bea. “If an issue or suspected problem comes up, the operator immediately informs our supervisors and service by a mechanic is scheduled.”
Today's top stories